Sam Phillips: The Long Play

Barring any unforeseen (though entirely welcome) surprises, the release of new Sam Phillips music through her Long Play subscription service has come to an end, and so, too, has my coverage of it; my engagement with the music, however, is just beginning. I’m still wrestling with What It All Means, both as a thrillingly rich chapter in the creative life of one my my all-time favorite singer/songwriters, and also as art that stands completely on its own.

What I think I can say, at this point, is that the whole enterprise turned out to be a rousing success– and I dare say Sam herself would agree with me when I say that it exceeded all expectations. She came out of the year-long endeavor with five excellent EPs, representing some of the farthest-reaching and most daring music of her career, and a standalone full-length that both builds on everything she’s done before but doesn’t sound particularly like any one of the shorter volumes that preceded it. But best of all, perhaps, is the way in which this project seems to have stoked the flames of her creativity in such a big way; truly, I think the Long Play material, taken collectively, represents her finest work to date, and if reports of still another new album, to be released to the general public later this year, are any indication, she’s still firing on all cylinders.

I continues to be struck by how well each entry in the series holds up as its own thing, yet, as a body of work, it coheres with a remarkable depth and complexity. So I wanted to have a post where readers can find everything I’ve written about the Long Play project, all in one place. Below are links to my reviews of…

  • Hypnotists in Paris, Phillips’ melancholy chamber-pop collaboration with the Section Quartet.
  • Her pious and playful holiday album, Cold Dark Night— complete with a cameo from our man Joe Henry.
  • The snap, crackle and pop of the perfectly-named Magic for Everybody.
  • Her old-timey Hollywood short story, Old Tin Pan— a tale of love, God, and show-business.
  • Her summertime covers album, Days of the One Night Stands.
  • And, of course, the Long Play full-length, a beguiling, at once contemplative and playful album called Cameras in the Sky.

By the way: In writing those bullet points, I realized that the word “playful” serves as a pretty perfect summation of, really, all six records– further proof of just how aptly named The Long Play was, I suppose. All to say, I’ve never been more grateful for Sam Phillips– for her music, for her integrity, for her boldness. Long may she play.

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